Saturday, October 15, 2011

Race for the White House 2012


As if things were not bad enough for the Obama reelection effort, we learned this week that both Hulk Hogan and Amber Ettinger, the 2008 "Obama Girl" have become disillusioned with the performance of the incumbent and are among those who voted for him in his first run, but who are now open to seriously considering an alternative choice. Along those lines, while the reelection effort is certain to be extremely well-funded, Obama's cash haul this last quarter was less then expected.

Also this week, both Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were asked during television interviews if a plan was possible that would have them switching jobs, allowing an Obama-Clinton ticket to be nominated next summer at Charlotte. Both denied that is even a remote possibility, so Obama-Biden it appears likely to be, even though some Democrats may be disappointed that Hillary will not be in the #2 spot on the ticket, or for that matter the #1 spot.

Meanwhile, Democrats wonder what kind of approach to take to the increasing in media attention "Occupy Wall Street" movement, that has also spread to other cities. Many on the left feel that these protests will increase visibility and energy for the party ahead of next year's campaign, while others correctly realize the inherent danger of getting too close to that group of nutjobs. This could be a potentially combustible situation for the party if their support, no matter how tacit, can be linked to political extremism or any potential acts of violence or lawlessness.


Since last week, Mitt Romney, while either tied or behind in national polls, appears closer than ever to the nomination. A month or so ago, it looked like a fierce battle for the GOP nod was brewing between Romney and Rick Perry, but now, it has to be seen that while comebacks are always possible in politics, the Perry campaign has imploded in one of the most spectacular ways in American history. In fact, while I was saying for months that Perry was overrated for a politician and could be in for an extremely bumpy ride on the national stage, I never quite saw it happening this dramatically.

The field now appears to be pretty formally set, as Rudy Giuliani, the Republican who looked like the front-runner at this time four years ago, and whom one poll this cycle still had as the strongest against Obama, quietly announced that it was too late for him and he would not be running. In the meantime, the one time highly touted campaigns of Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman appear to be in dire straits, financially and organizationally. While Herman Cain and to a lesser extent Newt Gingrich (one thought of as politically D.O.A.) have risen in the polls, both Bachmann and Huntsman are further back in the pack. They have also both faced staff turnovers, reports of campaign discord, and have seen national campaign headquarters closed in cost-cutting measures. The suburban D.C. based campaign of the Minnesota Congresswoman has now centered operations in Iowa, while the one time Florida based national campaign of the former Utah Governor is now focusing exclusively on New Hampshire. Perhaps trying to pander to New Hampshire voters who hold pride in their status of holding the "First in the Nation" primary, Huntsman is boycotting next week's upcoming CNN debate in Nevada.

Since last week, Herman Cain has risen even higher in the polls, while Rick Perry continues to fall behind. The one time Texan frontrunner appears to be running third or fourth now in Iowa, and even worse in New Hampshire, where he does not even registers outside the margin of error at about 2 percent. I will still say that Perry cannot be completely counted out due to his campaign's deep pockets, but it keeps getting worse and worse for him out there. An economic debate this past week in New Hampshire was supposed to show a strong candidate, intent on turning his campaign around, but he seemed to disappear from parts of it , and came across as more of an afterthought as Romney and Cain seemed to dominate the discussion. The reveal of Perry's energy policy during a Pittsburgh speech yesterday was overshadowed in the media by his wife's complaints about how tough a month it has been for them and how she feels her husband has been attacked because of his faith. That is an odd way of looking at it, considering it was a Perry supporter who introduced faith into the campaign, when he called her husband's main competitor a member of a cult.

All the while, the Cain Train seems to be gaining more speed as people look at him and start to speculate that he could actually be nominated and become President. The political appeal of Herman Cain is impressive and real in many ways, but I still maintain that without much of an organization or money, he is not even going to come close to actually challenging Romney for the nod, even if Cain were to somehow win Iowa in January. While it is true, that the Cain campaign appears to have been staffing up a bit more in the wake of the national, Iowa, and South Carolina polls showing him either tied with Romney or ahead, which would signify that the candidate might actually run for President at the extent of conducting a successful book tour, I think eventually increased scrutiny on Cain and his ever present 9-9-9 economic plan will stop his momentum. That just may take a few more weeks. When that time eventually comes, it may be Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry once again who will look like the newest version of the "anti-Romney option" or those GOP voters may just decide opposing Romney is a lost cause.

Nonetheless, influential talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh, who along with others in the medium, were openly supportive of Romney's last Presidential campaign as the best conservative option, now seem to be doing everything they can to stop him. On the airwaves this week, Limbaugh, who says he will support any eventual GOP nominee, basically called Romney a "RINO" and a "liberal" and made the illogical assumption that the White House, which does seem to be focusing on Romney, wants to run against him, because he would be the easiest to beat, because he can be tied to Wall Street. It is complete hypocrisy on behalf of El Rushbo and his proteges, such as Mark Levin, who urged conservatives to support Romney four years ago, but now, feel his nomination and Presidency would be disastrous for conservatism. As someone who used to listen frequently to Limbaugh, since I was a freshman in High School, this may have been the week he finallly "jumped the shark" for me.

Moving back to Cain, the simplicity of his 9-9-9 plan is appealing to many on the right, but a closer examination of the details, by the other candidates, and by the media, might take some luster away from it. People from my ideological persuasion love the plan-speaking, direct style of Cain, and I can see why, but that does not mean he should be President. While I think he would make a better President than Barack Obama in every way imaginable, I happen to care very deeply about foreign policy and national security and I cannot think of another major candidate in either party who ever appeared in line to be nominated who had less experience in and perhaps less knowledge of those issues. I still think it is smarter for Romney to allow the Cain thing to continue to stay at the surface, at the political expense of any perceived Perry comeback for as long as possible.

Many now feel, especially after the last debate, in which he was seen as having perhaps his strongest showing in a series of impressive debate performances, that Romney's nomination is close to a done deal. As an ardent supporter, I want to take nothing for granted, but it is hard for me, as a political observer, to see a political path for anyone else to stop him. It is very possible that the nomination could be formally sewed up extremely early into the 2012 calender year.

Just over a week ago, many Republicans looked to Chris Christie as a potential savior, but just seven days after declining to run once again, the Governor of New Jersey traveled to New Hampshire, stood beside the former Governor of Massachusetts, and offered an enthusiastic endorsement. Christie used his political spotlight during the week to take to the airwaves and defend Romney, while forcefully firing back at Perry's anti-Mormon pastor friend, as well as those who claim that "Romneycare" is the same as Obamacare. Even if Tuesday night's debate for Romney did not go as well as it did, the Christie endorsement would have been seen as the major headline of the day, and it did eclipse reports that stated how Romney advisers had met with Obama to discuss health care.

There is and will continue to be talk for a while about how "weak" Romney appears, since he cannot come close to blowing away the field in national polls. It is certainly true that there is a large segment of Republican voters who are holding out for someone other than Romney, but if when the voting starts, the candidate piles up win after win,and clinches it easily, none of that will really be remembered.

Right now, Herman Cain appears to be a formidable challenge to Romney's nomination, but I consider that to be far less than meets the eye, and I do not expect the two candidates to be really all that intent on going after another I also think Cain knows he will ultimately not be the nominee). I would attribute the strong showing of Cain in current polls to a phenomenon of highly motivated, attuned conservative voters who like what they see and hear from him, (though I think his debate comments in regards to admiring Alan Greenspan as Fed Chair so much was a politically damaging thing to say), but even most of them really do not think he should be President or nominated to be President. If anything, it's a symbolic statement of skepticism at this point on Romney's conservative bona fides.

As we get closer to voting though, more and more non political junkies will be joining the process and they will be looking for who seems to be best prepared to take on Obama and win, and who is best prepared to serve as President.